On the day she started her term as new WTO chief, Okonjo-Iweala faced a challenge to her vision
By Peter Ungphakorn POSTED FEBRUARY 22, 2021 | UPDATED JULY 25, 2021
It’s tempting to call it a bombshell. But the warning signs have been around for some time. Nevertheless a new paper from India and South Africa signals a tough ride for the new head of the World Trade Organization’s ambitions to drive negotiations forward.
The paper criticises negotiations involving only part of the WTO’s membership. They are called “plurilaterals” and are seen as a way of breaking deadlock when consensus is elusive.
Questions and explanations about why the waiver is proposed, why it’s opposed and what it would mean
Update: In a remarkable turn-around on May 5, 2021, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced the US would support the waiver and negotiate based on a proposed text. The press release referred only to COVID-19 vaccines, not other products. Tai said:
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protection, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines. We will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) needed to make that happen. Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.
“The Administration’s aim is to get as many safe and effective vaccines to as many people as fast as possible. As our vaccine supply for the American people is secured, the Administration will continue to ramp up its efforts — working with the private sector and all possible partners — to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution. It will also work to increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines.”
By Peter Ungphakorn POSTED DECEMBER 17, 2020 | UPDATED JULY 25, 2021
A petition with almost a million signatures was delivered to the World Trade Organization on December 9, 2020, calling for the WTO “to urgently ensure access to lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and equipment for everyone in the world”.
We can overlook the fact that the WTO has no power to “ensure” anything of the kind. What the petition aimed to do was to support a proposal to waive WTO intellectual property rules temporarily where related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The delivery was timed for the discussion the following day when members met as the Council for Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Council). Since then, the proposal has gone nowhere.
Only three more ratifications are needed for the WTO’s first ever amendment to take effect. Or is it … FOUR?
Note: The “conundrum” was dodged on January 23, 2017 when five countries were officially announced to have ratified the amendment. The total leapt over the targeted 110 to 112. Now that the target has been reached, this blog post will no longer be updated. But the conundrum remains unresolved. More up-to-date information is availablehere.
By Peter Ungphakorn FIRST PUBLISHED BY IP-WATCH, APRIL 14, 2016
REVISED AND POSTED HERE JUNE 12, 2016 | UPDATED NOVEMBER 30, 2016